Death and Disability on Good Friday

Our present reality, as we hold onto Hope.

Good Friday, 2020. For those living in this present reality, you know this year felt like no other Good Friday. Our lives are siloed, quarantined. COVID-19 and a host of debilitating fears have swept across God’s green earth as we wrestle and rest, trying to figure out which way is up and how best to orient our lives in light of this present pandemic. And herein I pray we find Hope.

Within this present haze, during Holy Week, I awoke to a message from a dear friend. She sadly informed me that a precious 9 year old girl that we both knew had died that morning. I had met this sweet girl at a recent Family Retreat. I work for a non-profit that supports families impacted by disability. One of the ways we support families is by hosting retreats where the whole family, Mom and Dad, the child with a disability and all their siblings, get to enjoy some much needed time away. The retreat where I met this young lively gal was at a wilderness lodge in way-out-of-the-way rural Canada. And now just weeks after saying goodbye to this precious fighter, a recent heart transplant survivor, she was dead.

The day was already sober before this. It was Good Friday, a time of reflection on our Lord’s painful passion, where Christ laid aside his own will, and died for me, died because of me. He took upon his own body the wrath and judgment of a loving, holy God. He paid the price for all my wicked, twisted rebellions and usurpations against His loving and holy commands. Amidst that already sober reality, we were isolated, feeling alone. Sunday was coming, but we wouldn’t be able to gather with brothers and sisters and declare to each other and the heavenlies, “He is Risen Indeed!” And then adding to this present pandemic, another painful death, on Good Friday, made the day all the more stark and solemn. Would the gray ever fade, would the doldrums ever give way to divine wind? Would we reach that hallowed shore?

And for those impacted by disability, this windless gray, isn’t some transient anomaly, but rather feels like a chilling and ever-hanging reality, a cold wet blanket that never warms or dries. Perhaps it is how our Lord’s first disciples felt on that first Good Friday. They didn’t know Sunday was coming. Jesus had given them hope and a promise, but it seems for most, their vision was obtuse, blocked by the bloody reality of a dead friend.

I share this story as a way of introduction and as a way of hope. My life has been impacted by disability. My wife and I have three children and our youngest son has Down Syndrome. I vividly remember that day when our dreams died. “We think your son may have Trisomy 21, Down Syndrome.” This wasn’t what I signed up for, this wasn’t where I wanted to end up. I don’t want to be that family that gets the black spot of disability handed to them. And so we cried and prayed and cried and prayed. But nothing changed, no miracle whisked us back to our ‘disability-free’ dream world.

And for that I am ever so grateful to God. And herein lies the Hope. Hope is not wishful thinking, crossed fingers, or knocking on wood. Hope, for those who follow the Crucified Christ, is an absolute confidence in the promises of God that good things are coming. I follow the Crucified Christ, but I also follow the Resurrected Christ. A prayer I’ve prayed for years, following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, is that I want “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Hope is embracing Christ amidst this present broken reality. We live in the shadowlands, we live in the beautiful broken, walking, stumbling, yay even crawling by faith, seeing through a glass dimly that glorious shore. Disability and death allows us to wake up to this present reality. This COVID-craziness has disabled the world, and I pray is being used by God as his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. We are not as strong as we think we are. We are not as able-bodied as we’d like to imagine.

And so here, in the midst of a season of disease, where a silent death seeks to steal, and kill, and destroy, I pray we can find hope. I pray for this precious family that just lost their 9 year old daughter, and sister, I pray they find hope in the midst of the rightful grieving and weeping and longing. I pray that we can look death and disability in the face, and in that pain and brokenness find Jesus, the Jesus of the Scars, who meets us in our rebellion, our brokenness, our despair, and hanging on that Good Friday tree, declares, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Take courage friends, don’t lose heart. Fix you gaze, trim your sails, and hold onto Hope. Sunday is coming!

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